National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Susan C. v. Department of Children and Families, State of Florida

Plaintiffs filed suit against the Florida Department of Children and Family Services, as well as Big Bend Community Based Care (a private contract foster care agency) for failing to find appropriate, licensed foster care placements for children in the state’s custody. Foster youth of all ages and sexes were housed together in a Department of Children and Family Services building conference room, which not only lacked the necessary licenses to house children, but also lacked adequate food, bedding and sanitary facilities.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT AND DATE FILED

2006-CA-000766 (Cir. Ct. of Leon County, Florida, 2006)

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Paolo Annino
Florida State University
Children’s Advocacy Center
425 W. Jefferson St
Tallahassee, FL 32306
(850) 644 9930

Michael J. Dale
3305 College Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314
(954) 262-6159

Corene Kendrick, Carole Shauffer, Jennifer Troia
Youth Law Center
417 Montgomery St, Ste. 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 543 3379

HISTORY AND STATUS

Plaintiffs filed their complaint on April 4, 2005. Plaintiffs alleged that the use of such a facility violated Florida state statutes, which requires that all placement facilities used by DCF and the agencies with which DCF contracts be licensed. Additionally plaintiffs alleged that the use of such a facility violated the due process rights of affected foster youth.

On August 7, 2006, plaintiffs settled with Big Bend Community Based Care. Big Bend agreed to amend its contract with DCF to prohibit the use of unlicensed placements for overnight stays, except in the case of natural disasters of declared states of emergencies, and to notify plaintiffs’ attorneys within 24 hours if any child were placed in any unlicensed facility. Big Bend also agreed to permit plaintiffs’ counsel to visit any facility in use for the placement of any child under the supervision of Big Bend.  The agreement was set to terminate on January 27, 2008.  The suit against Big Bend was subsequently dismissed with prejudice.

In November 2006, the court denied the state’s motion for summary judgment and issued a writ of mandamus ordering DCF to comply with Florida state law. The court also ordered DCF to use only licensed placement facilities for emergency or permanent placement. DCF agreed to abide by the court’s order in December 2007.